After playing Audrey Tautou’s romantic opposite in “Coco Before Chanel” and currently starring as Leonard Chess in “Who Do You Love,” a biopic about the beloved founder of the Chess record label, you could say that Alessandro Nivola is having a moment. He has no explanation for it.
“I’m not really sure why that happened now,” says Nivola. “I always thought of myself as a character actor. Most of the roles that I’ve played up until recently have been roles that required me to transform myself a lot. I became an actor to get away from myself as much as I could,” he admits, “and I didn’t really feel very comfortable playing roles that were not a big departure from my own personality. As I’ve gotten a little bit older, I’ve become less afraid of that for some reason.”
If not close to his own personality, Chess is close to Nivola’s heart. He’s fond of the music Chess produced by artists such as Little Walter and Muddy Waters, which made the part in “Who Do You Love” particularly alluring. And not just to Nivola, apparently — the movie, “Cadillac Records, released in December 2008 and starring Adrien Brody as Chess, also dealt with the label’s legacy.
“Leonard Chess is obviously so important to the history of rock ’n’ roll, but not that many people know that,” Nivola says. “And for two companies to landed on this story as one that had to be told right now, it’s so strange. I don’t understand why that happened.”